There are two tensions that dominate our political and social living. They are individualism and community. Each has its necessary functions, but they are often at odds with one another. As individuals we often feel coerced into accepting community-wide decisions that we may believe to be unwise or too restrictive. Conversely the community may resent the iconoclast who harshly criticizes cooperative efforts. Even the most steadfast loner is aware that once in a while the group format is necessary for survival. Most community members, too, understand that there are times and circumstances that become unmanageable in the midst of the group. One must focus on the issue and complete the task alone. That is what is known as personal responsibility.
Most effective community ventures are ad hoc affairs. The people come together to resolve an issue that affects the whole area. The most common examples of ad hoc organization can be found in communities that have experienced a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, massive flooding or any number of potentially devastating events. The disaster often isolates the community from the outside world, and the residents must join together to secure some degree of individual safety. The most hardened individualist will embrace the community’s collective program to survive and recover.
Government represents the most forceful and permanent aspect of a community’s attempts to work collectively. The passage of rules, ordinances and laws replace the informal organization of spontaneous unity found in ad hoc event-oriented cooperative efforts. The rule making becomes a permanent element of the community, and individual laws may extend beyond their original justification. While some may view the individualist as a contrarian, her or his heightened sense of self-purpose and self-interest generates a reluctance to accept the community restrictions. Because of the power for enforcement, all government rulemaking or legislation is by nature…tyrannical. If an individual resists the rule,….for whatever reason…the collective power of the governing unit can be forcefully used to secure her or his compliance.
Not all laws, regulations or rules are wise, nor are they necessarily fair or equitable. The community (government) believes that total compliance is necessary for order and cooperative living. The individualist chafes at what appear to be meaningless attempts to coerce conformity. The individualist swims against the stream while the communitarians choose not to make waves. The slow creep of tyranny moves unabated when people suppress their individuality and fail to stir the waters of discontent and caution.
People who love liberty and citizens who protect liberty are the original “surfers” or “wave riders.” We need more of them. In a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal (Monday, 9/26/2011), Senator Susan Collins of Maine has called for a moratorium on regulations. She revealed that there are 4200 rules or regulations waiting to be approved that could negatively impact the economy. It’s about time. Now begin repealing the others. The community is not infallible, and the individualists must resist the oppressive tyranny of a community run amok. Stand tall, and don’t be afraid to fall.
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